By Gene Stanley/Sports Correspondent
Four Bulldogs, a Cardinal, an Eagle and a Tiger now populate the halls of Gadsden City High – in conjunction with National Signing Day for college football.
In what has become an annual ritual for the Titan gridiron program, seven athletes signed scholarships on Wednesday (Feb. 6).
The biggest schools represented, football wise, were Mississippi State and Louisville.
But Khalid Cannon made the biggest move, signing with Yale University and in the process becoming another Gadsden City first – first athletic Ivy Leaguer.
“The prestige that goes with attending Yale is phenomenal,” Cannon said. “The alumni opportunities are tremendous, and in the end, I chose Yale over Harvard.”
For anyone, athlete or not, having the academic background that makes for the scholarships Cannon was after, is remarkable.
Established in 1701 in New Haven, Conn., Yale is a member of the nine colonial colleges that have evolved into the Ivy League.
“I really don’t know what to say,” April Cannon, mother to Kha-lid. “I’m honestly still speechless about it, being that kind of school. But I know he’s going to be a long way from home.”
Football wise, Cannon started two years as a Titan and is a 6-4 tall offensive lineman who tips the scales at 255 pounds.
The two biggest signees of 2012, as far as football, were B.J. Hammond, a 6-4, 207-pound wide receiver who honored his early co-mmitment by signing with Mississippi State.
And Finesse Middleton, the defensive end who weighs in a 6-1, 245. He inked his way to Louisville.
During the hat-grabbing, made-for-television announcements, former GCHS head football coach Joe Billingsley said that this may be his favorite class in his 25-year coaching history, even though he acknowledged that some of it may be due to the fact that it’s his last one.
Billingsley, the only head coach in GCHS history, resigned earlier this year.
“This group went through some ups and downs,” Billingsley said. “When they were ninth- and 10th graders, we were having great seasons.
“Then the past two years, it’s been different. But these seniors endured.”
Middleton was unable to attend the ceremony, as he is already working out in Kentucky. His mother stood in his stead and played the announcement via telephone.
Seven Titans sign – page 2B
Hammonds was the jokester of the day, making a game of keeping as many school caps on the lectern that he could. He never quite got four to stay at once.
“I realize that not everyone gets the opportunity to play college football,” Hammond said after finally donning the bright red of the Cardinals. “I truly appreciate all of the help from my coaches, teachers, parents, friends and teammates to make this possible.”
Rodney Edwards decided to attend Tennessee State in Nashville.
“I’m hoping to get to play next year,” Edwards said. “I guess every player hopes that but I really do.”
Tennessee State is an Ohio Valley Conference school, so the Tigers compete with Jacksonville State.
Also, Blake Worthy and Jordan Veasy both signed with Alabama State in Montgomery.
“I think we both just kind of decided last week,” Worthy said. “It’s going to be great to have a buddy from back home. If we could both get on the field at the same time, as freshmen, that would be so good.”
Veasy had another good reason to attend Alabama State.
“My sister goes to UAM (Auburn at Montgomery),” he said. “Now it’s time to go win the NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) national title.”
LeGerald Malone inked with Faulkner University, also located in Montgomery.
“The coaches basically convinced me,” Malone said. “They’re taking me as an athlete, so there’s a chance I can play myself onto the field soon.”
These seven young men make Gadsden City’s college football signee list soar to 34 in just seven years.